RELATIONS BETWEEN NORTH KOREA AND JAPAN: SUMMITS, MISSILE TESTS, NUCLEAR BOMBS, DRUGS AND DISNEYLAND

NORTH KOREA AND JAPAN

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Japanese poster related to
North Korean abduction issue
North Korea continues to demand an apology and reparations for wrongs committed by Japanese during their occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945. The Japanese government has promised to pay compensation and has expressed its willigness to offer aid but contends that it doesn’t have to pay reparations because Japan and Korea were never at war.

Japan and North Korea have never had formal diplomatic ties. In 1990, North Korean leader Kim Il Sung surprised the world when he announced that he was interested in establishing diplomatic relations with Japan. Talks were held in 1991. The negotiations broke down in 1992 after North Korea demanded billions of dollars in war reparations from Japan, and Japan raised the issue of Japanese being kidnaped by North Korean agents.

In a survey in December 2006, 80 percent of Japanese respondents said they viewed North Korea as a military threat. Japan is particularly concerned about North Korean missiles that passed over its airspace on 1998 and 2009, North Korean nuclear weapons and Japanese citizens that have been abducted to North Korea.

The Japanese government regards China as key in its policy toward North Korea. Beijing still wields considerable influence on North Korea through its economic aid and other ties. Japan relies on United States and South Korea for information on North Korea. Japan has four intelligence-gathering satellites whose primary mission is watching North Korea. In August 2010, the line radar satellite---the only one capable of gathering information in darkness and cloudy weather---broke down.

Japan has imported coal, sea urchins, crabs, littleneck clams and mushrooms from North Korea. The ¥2 billion in coal that Japan used to import from North Korea made up more than 10 percent of North Korea’s overall exports. Much of it was imported by Nippon Steel. Imports stopped after the nuclear test in 2006.

North Korea has used balloons to carry propaganda literature and chemical containers with timing devises to Japan. According to Kim Il Sung and the Five-Point Policy for National Reunification: "The Japanese militarists, dancing to the tune of the U.S. imperialists, have also hampered the North-South dialogue and taken many actions against the reunification of our country. The U.S. imperialists and Japanese militarists aim, in the final analysis, at keeping our country divided indefinitely, and making South Korea their permanent colony and commodity market.”

In mid-November 2012, Japan and North Korea held their first governmental meeting in four years, and the North Korean side has agreed to continue talks including those about the abduction issue. Subsequent talks were canceled due to North Korea’s missile launch. The last meeting was held in August 2008.

Websites and Resources

Good Websites and Sources: Japan-North Korea Relations mofa.go.jp ; North Korea in Japan japanprobe.com ; 2003 Library of Congress Report on Japan-North Korea Relations pdf file fpc.state.gov/documents ; BBC Report on 2009 North Korean Missile Launch news.bbc.co.uk ; Abduction Issue Japanese Government on the Abduction Issue rachi.go.jp/en and kantei.go.jp ; Worldwide List of North Korean Abductees sukuukai.jp/narkn ; Film on the Megumi Story abductionfilm.com ; THINK, a Group Focused on the north Korean Abduction Issue think.s52.xrea.com

Links in this Website: JAPANESE MILITARY Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; CHANGING JAPANESE MILITARY Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; AMERICAN MILITARY IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPAN AND THE WORLD Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TERRORISM, PIRACY AND KIDNAPPING AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPAN, IRAQ, IRAN AND AFRICA Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SOUTH KOREA AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; NORTH KOREA AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; CHINA AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; RUSSIA AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; UNITED STATES AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ;

Good Websites and Sources on Foreign Affairs : Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan mofa.go.jp and mofa.go.jp ; Paper on Development of Japanese International Relations allacademic.com ; Wikipedia article on Foreign Policy of Japan Wikipedia ; Foreign Policy Magazine on the New Hatoyama Government foreignpolicy.com ; Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies japanesestudies.org ; The World and Japan Database Project ioc.u-tokyo.ac.jp ; Japan in the World (last updated in 2003) iwanami.co.jp/jpworld ; Book: Japan’s International Relations: Politics, Economics and Security amazon.ca/Japans-International-Relations

Think Tanks and Research Groups: Japan Policy Research Institute jpri.org ; The Japan Forum on International Relations jfir.or.jp/e ; Japan Watch, Commentary on Political and Economic Issues jipr.org ; Japanese Institute of Global Communications glocom.org ; Japan Analysis and Research Through Internet Information dandoweb.com ; Documents Related to Postwar Politics and International Relations ioc.u-tokyo.ac.jp ; Foreign Aid Organizations: Japan and the IMF imf.org ; World Bank (click countries at the top or do a search) worldbank.org ; Japan International Cooperation Agency jica.go.jp ;

Koizumi’s Trip to North Korea

On September 17, 2002, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang, North Korea. The visit lasted only a few hours. Koizumi arrived at Pyongyang around 9:00am. He met with Kim Jong Il for one hour in the late morning. Kim was described as stiff and nervous. He didn’t welcome Koizumi with same open arms he did when he met with South Korea President Kim Dae Jung. Koizumi and Kim had lunch separately and had a second round of talks, for 1½ hours, in the afternoon. After giving a press conference alone, Koizumi flew home.

There were hopes that the meeting would lead to solutions to many of the problems that exist between Japan and North Korea. But the visit ended up creating more problems than it solved A joint declaration signed by both leaders called for the resumption of talks on the normalization of diplomatic relations between to the two countries. Kim Jong Il promised a moratorium on the provocative missile tests and promised to let weapons inspectors into the country and offered a “candid apology” for the abductions and said “this will never happen again.” But the statements did little to dispel the outrage over the issue.

In September 2002, Kim Jong Il and Junichiro Koizumi signed the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Declaration during Koizumi's visit to North Korea. The Pyongyang Declaration stipulates Japan and North Korea would restart negotiations to normalize diplomatic relations by the end of October 2002, and that, after ties are established, Japan would provide economic assistance, including grants in aid, to North Korea. It also specified that North Korea would extend its freeze on missile tests. In addition, both sides confirmed they would abide by all international agreements related to the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula to resolve the matter.

Japan and the Death of Kim Jong Il

After the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Xinhua reported: “About 10,000 Korean residents in Japan attended a memorial in Tokyo to mourn the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s late leader Kim Jong Il, organizers said. The event, organized by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, also known as Chongryon, was carried out in a school hall affiliated with the organization. [Source: Xinhua, December 29, 2011]

Many attendees arrived at the memorial hall before 11 a.m., the official start of the service, the organization said. After observing a minute's silence, the attendees took turns to place red carnations on a stand in the hall. The organization's local chapters also held similar memorial services in various parts of Japan. The DPRK held a state funeral for the demised leader, who died from "great mental and physical strain" on a train during a field guidance tour.

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who called the shots on the issue of Japanese abducted by Pyongyang agents, has raised expectations in Japan for a breakthrough in the deadlocked issue. Soon after the announcement of Kim Jong Il's death, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura expressed the government's "condolences" at a press conference. Although some government officials were cautious about making such a comment, Fujimura had an ulterior motive. "To ensure the safety of abductees, the government considered it necessary to send a message to North Korea," a government source said. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, December 23, 2011]

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited the headquarters of Chongryon in Tokyo to mourn Kim's death. He placed a bouquet of red carnations in front of Kim's portrait before leaving the compound. As prime minister, Koizumi held talks with Kim twice in Pyongyang in the early 2000s, which resulted in the return of five abductees to Japan and their family members' relocation from North Korea. [Source: Kyodo, December 23, 2011]

In January 2012, Kyodo reported: “North Korea criticized Japan for failing to offer official condolences to the country on the death of leader Kim Jong Il. Japan's "hostile" response has made outlooks for bilateral relations "dimmer," the Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency said, making it the first commentary on Japan since North Korea announced Dec. 19 that Kim had died of a heart attack two days earlier at the age of 69. [Source: Kyodo, Mainichi Japan, January 4, 2012]

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inconsistancies on death certificates of abductees said to have died

Relations Between Japan and North Korea After the Return of the Abductees

After the return of the abductees, anti-North Korea sentiments ran high. North Korean ships and ferries that had routinely docked before in Japan without incident were suddenly given a thorough going over by Japanese customs officials and greeted by angry protestors, shouting “Go back to North Korea” and “Give back the families of the abductees..” In some cases the ships were ordered out to sea because of minor code violations found in vessel’s kitchen.

Japan wants the truth in what happened to the 12 of the 17 abductees who are said to have died. When pressured on the abduction issue, Pyongyang insists that attention should be focused on the treatment of North Koreans during World War II and the colonial period in the 1920s and 30s.

The United Nations draft adopted in 2006 raised the abduction issue. In April 2006, Sakie Yokata and her son Takuya met with U.S. President George Bush in the White House Oval office. Afterwards Bush said, “I have just had one of the most moving meetings since I’ve been president.”

In February 2006, Japan and North Korea held talks on the abduction issue. Not much progress was made. Japan spent three hours outlining its concerns on the matter. There were hints that the investigation into the abduction issue could end in the fall in 2008, easing tensions between the two nations and allowing the lifting of restrictions on travel.

Japanese Sanctions on North Korea

In addition to the international sanctions slapped on North Korea, Japan has imposed its own sanctions, including prohibiting the entry of North-Korea-registered ships to Japanese ports. After this no imports arrived from North Korea and exports declined by 87 percent to $440 million.

A seafood company was caught importing North Korea littleneck clams disguised as Chinese clams. It has its import license revoked for three months for breaching the sanctions against North Korea.

In April 2004, a bill was passed that allowed the government to bar North Korean vessels from certain ports. Many Japanese were outraged by the false information given in December 2004. There was widespread support for economic sanction against North Korea. The United States and South Korea urged Japan not to impose sanctions.

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Megumi anime

Japan and North Korean Missile and Nuclear Tests

Japan reacted strongly top the North Korean missile test in July 2006, by saying it would consider pre-emptive strikes against North Korea

In early April 2009, North Korea launched a missile---a three-stage Taepodong-2---that passed over Japan before crashing into the sea. North Korea said it was launching a communications satellite with a rocket. The missile traveled about 3,200 kilometers and crashed into the sea about 2,100 kilometers east of Japan. The first stage dropped into the sea about 280 kilometers west of Akita Prefecture. The Taepong-2 is thought to have a range of about 6,000 kilometers and is capable of reaching United States territory. It reportedly incorporates Japanese technology.

Japan was put on high alert and it Patriot defense system readied in Akita and Iwate Prefecture and in Tokyo but did not try to intercept the missile. Air traffic and maritime vessel had been advised to steer clear of danger areas and were given a warning about four minutes after the missile was launched.

When other countries launch missiles or rockets they don not do over other countries. The missile passed between 300 and 400 kilometers over Akita Prefecture in northern Honshu and never went into orbit and was deemed a failure because its third stage was never activated. It was tracked with land based radar and radar on an Aegis destroyer placed between Korea and Japan. A false alarm on the missile launching had been given the day before.

Japan---joined by the United States and South Korea---voiced outrage over what appeared to be a ballistic missile test, stating it was a clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718, which prohibits North Korea from conducting ballistic missile-related activities. The resolution was passed in October 2006 after North Korea conducted its nuclear test. Japan and the United States wanted a strong response while China and Russia called for a softer position and threatened to use their vetoes if the draft was too strong.

In May 2009, North Korea conducted its second nuclear test. One of the first places to determine that the test took place was an earthquake observation station in Nagano that picked up vibrations produced by the blast. Planes were sent towards Korea to check for radiation in the air. Japan was angry with the United States for failing to inform Japan in advance that North Korea was preparing to conduct the test. After the nuclear test North Korea conducted three short-range missile test.

In response to North Korea’s second nuclear test Japan considered banning all exports to North Korea.

Japan and North Korea’s 2012 Missile Launches

Japan was angered by North Korean missile launches in April and December 2012. The missiles passed over Japanese airspace in Okinawa. There were concerns about debris from the rocket falling on mainland Japan or Okinawa. In both cases orders were given ed to shoot down missile

In April 2012, The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka issued an order to the Self-Defense Forces to intercept a North Korean missile, if necessary, to prevent it or its fragments from falling within Japanese territory. "We want to be fully prepared for the possibility [the missile or its fragments] may fall into our territory," Tanaka said at a news conference. The SDF prepared for an interception by deploying missiles such as the surface-to-air Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) and sea-to-air Standard Missile-3 (SM-3). Japan also issued an order to shoot down a North Korean missile in 2009. The April 2012 order defined the target as "a missile considered to have been launched from North Korea [or its fragments] and confirmed to be falling within Japanese territory." [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, March 31, 2012]

The SDF deployed surface-to-air Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles at seven locations in Okinawa Prefecture and the Tokyo metropolitan area. It will also deploy three Aegis-equipped destroyers. It also used ground-based radar and deployed aircraft capable of collecting radio wave information in preparation for the launch. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun. April 3, 2012]

According to sources, an initial report of the North Korean launches was given by U.S. forces after an early warning surveillance satellite detected a heat source at the time of the launch. The information was sent instantly from the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado to the Air Self-Defense force's Air Defense Command at the U.S. Yokota Air Base in Tokyo and the ministry's Central Command Post via various places, including the U.S. military forces headquarters in Japan at the Yokota Air Base. [Ibid]

The missiles were tracked by the ASDF's Fixed Position System-5 (FPS-5) warning and control radars. The radars emitted radio waves in the direction the missile emerged over the horizon. FPS-5 radars on Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture, Shimokoshikijima island in Kagoshima Prefecture and Mt. Yozadake in Okinawa Prefecture played an important role. The missiles were be detected by the EPS-5 on Sado Island immediately after their launch, and were tracked by the radar on Shimokoshikijima island. Afterward, the tracking continued to the east of the Philippines by the EPS-5 at Mt. Yozadake. The SPY-1 radar, which reportedly has a range superior to that of the more than 1,000-kilometer range of Aegis-equipped destroyers also tracked the missiles. [Ibid]

Relevant information collected by Japan and the United States was compiled at the Air Defense Command and the Central Command Post with the missile's trajectory and expected landing spot shown onscreen. The chief of the Air Defense Command had the authority to decide whether the missile should be intercepted if it appears likely to fall within Japanese territory. It was decided that Interception was unnecessary if the missile followed the initially reported route that passed about 500 kilometers above the area around Japan’s Ishigakijima island. However, interception was deemed necessary if the missile appeared likely to fall on Japanese land or water due to inadequate thrust or failure to detach from a rocket booster. If the Aegis-based Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) system failed to intercept the missile outside the earth's atmosphere, PAC-3 missiles would have been be used at a height of more than 10 kilometers above the earth. [Ibid]

Kim Jong Nam in Japan

Kim Jong Nam, Kim Jong Il’s eldest son, reportedly has visited Japan several times, presumably with fake passports. He said visited Tokyo Disneyland when was 14 or 15 and is said to have studied the Japanese language and checked out computers and Internet technology in Japan.

According to a 1998 interview with a woman who slept with Kim Jong Nam in the respected Japanese magazine Shincho 45, Kim Jong Nam liked to party in Tokyo in Korean nightclubs and bars. She said he sang Japanese karaoke songs until he was covered in sweat, ate three plates of flounder sashimi along with Hennessy extra cognac. She said he was “very polite” and “spoke slowly like a big yakuza boss in the movies.” On his performance in bed she said, “He was so gentle [and] attentive, kind and sensitive to my needs and feelings. A gentleman bed.”

In May 2001, 29-year-old Kim Jong Nam, was detained at Narita airport outside of Tokyo. He was trying to enter Japan with two women and a 4-year-old boy on a fake passports from the Dominican Republic. One woman was presumed to his wife. The boy was assumed to be his son. The other woman was a friend or relative or nanny. Her passport was genuine.

Kim Jong Nam arrived on a flight from Singapore and was surrounded by immigration officials when he showed his passport. He was wearing a diamond-studded Rolex watch and several rings and was carry wads of cash. He said he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland. The women who with him carried Louis Vuitton bags and wore gold bracelets.

During seven hours of interrogation, Kim Jong Nam confessed he was Kim Jong Il’s son and said he had bought the passports in the Dominican Republic for $2000 each. His passport had several Japanese stamps from the previous year.

After some high level discussions, Kim Jong Nam was deported to China without his real identity being confirmed to avoid an incident with North Korea. Conservatives in Japan were upset. They wanted to see him arrested on criminal charges. An unidentified source reportedly tipped off immigrations officials about Kim Jong Nam.

It is widely believed to that Kim Jong Il did not know about the trip. The incident was a huge embarrassment for Kim Jong Nam and Kim Jong Il. According to some sources, Kim Jong Nam was scratched off the lost of possible successors and for a while lived in China. afraid to come home.

Kim Jong Un Went to Tokyo Disneyland in 1991 on Fake Passport

Kim Jong Un, the current leader of Il, went to Tokyo Disneyland while in Japan in May 1991 posing as a Brazilian tourist, Japanese public security officials have revealed. According to Yomiuri Shimbun Jong Un secretly entered Japan from Vienna at the age of 8 using a Brazilian passport under a different name and stayed in Japan for 11 days, the sources said. Kim Jong Il's second son, Kim jong Chul, 30, made the visit with Jong un at the age of 9, also using a Brazilian passport. [Source: Yasuhiro Maeda, Yomiuri Shimbun, December 23, 2011]

The two received Japanese visas in Vienna using genuine Brazilian passports with their own photos. jong Un used the name "Josef Pawag" in his passport. He entered Japan on May 12, 1991, and left May 22, they said. At the time, Japanese public security officials received intelligence that suspicious North Koreans had illegally entered Japan. However, by the time investigators started tracking their whereabouts on suspicion they might be in violation of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, the two already had left Japan. [Ibid]

The officials confirmed there was a high possibility that they visited Tokyo Disneyland during their stay in Japan based on credit-card records and other information. It was not known what other locations they visited, the sources said. Their mother, Ko Yong Hui, was born into a pro-Pyongyang ethnic Korean family in Osaka Prefecture in 1953. Ko moved to North Korea in the 1960s under a repatriation program promoted by North Korea's ruling Workers' Party of Korea and the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon). In 1972, Ko became a dancer, and subsequently married Kim Jong Il. [Ibid]

North Korean Defectors in Japan

In September 2009, nine people who fled North Korea and were found drifting aboard a hand-made wooden boat off the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture. They were given permission to land and then sent to South Korea by plane, which is what they had requested.

The nine North Koreans were three male adults, three female adults and three boys aged around 10 from two families. The eight-meter boat looked like a long row boat and seemed incapable of traveling the 800 kilometer distance from North Korea. There was a little food but no water on board. The leader of the group claimed he was in the North Korean military.

North Koreans reaching Japan across the cold, sometimes rough Sea of Japan by boat is unusual. In 2007, a family of four North Koreans, who arrived in Aomori Prefecture by a small wooden boat, were permitted to land. The Japanese government sent the defectors to South Korea at their request 14 days after they were taken into custody. In January 1987, a small boat carrying 11 North Koreans washed ashore in Fukui Port in Fukui Prefecture. They later defected to South Korea via Taiwan.

In October it was revealed that some of the defectors had used a short-wave radio and a cell phone to get information while preparing to defect, while evading the country's watch. They also changed their course to one toward Japan rather than South Korea after their boat met a storm at sea, as they knew Japan had allowed North Korean defectors to enter before. These findings were revealed in hearings by the Foreign Ministry and police authorities, the sources said.

Man on Boat from North Korea Dies of Hypothermia

In January 2012. Kyodo reported: “A dead man found with three North Korean men in a drifting boat in the Sea of Japan died of hypothermia, the Japan Coast Guard said after conducting an autopsy. One of the three men has told investigators the man died several days earlier after getting ''worn out,'' the coast guard said earlier. ''Four of us set off from a North Korean port,'' the coast guard quoted the man as saying. ''The one who died got gradually worn out and died several days ago.'' [Source: Kyodo, January 7, 2012]

The coast guard is investigating the incident as a maritime accident and has kept the men aboard one of its patrol boats at anchor off Sakaiminato, Tottori Prefecture. It does not regard them as illegal entrants and will consider a route for sending them back to North Korea, officials said. As it is the first time for the Japanese government to handle such a case which involves North Koreans who are not defectors washed ashore in Japanese territory, the government ministries concerned are currently discussing the legal basis for determining such a route and to give them permission for landing on Japanese soil before sending them home. [Ibid]

The wooden boat, about 7 meters long, which was found off Okinoshima Island, is equipped with an engine and a global positioning system and had empty water and oil tanks, according to the coast guard. One of the men was quoted as saying that the boat was left drifting after developing engine trouble during fishing. They have indicated their intention to return to North Korea, according to government sources. [Ibid]

North Korea, Japan and Amphetamines Trafficking

The source of much of the illegal methamphetamines sold in Japan in the late 1990s and early 2000s is believed to have been North Korea. It widely believed that Pyongyang supplied the yakuza and Japanese Korean gangs that distributes the drugs in Japan. The amount of amphetamines entering Japan from North Korea increased 21-fold between 1998 and 2002. In 1998 and 1999 alone, Japanese authorities seized 500 kilograms of North Korean amphetamines, a third of all stimulant seizures in that period.

North Korea reportedly runs industrial scale methamphetamine production centers. Authorities have traced orders of 50 tons of ephedrine---the key ingredient for amphetamines---to North Korean front companies. Analyst concluded that either a lot of North Koreans were suffering from colds (ephedrine is also used in cold remedies) or they were producing a lot of methamphetamines. Fifty tons of ephedrine is enough to make 40 tons or $8 billion worth fo methamphetamines.

In the late 1990s, police in Japan found 70 kilograms of illegal methamphetamines, with a street value of $100 million, in jars of honey shipped to Japan on a North Korean freighter. Police arrested the captain of the ship and Korean residents who tried to pick up the drugs in Japan. Authorities checked the honey because the were wondering why a country in the midst of a famine was exporting food. On another occasion 99 kilograms of North Korean amphetamines was found hidden in a cargo of shellfish on a Chinese freighter. The vessel had made a stop in North Korea before arriving in Japan.

A total of 35 percent of the stimulants seized between 1998 and 2002 (1,232 kilograms) came from North Korea, compared to 51 percent from China. Between 1998 and 2002, there were five known cases of amphetamines being smuggled into Japan from North Korea by North Korea vessels, making drop offs at sea to Japanese, or on Chinese fishing boats. Between 150 kilograms and 550 kilograms was involved in each drop.

In August 1998, a Japanese smuggling group rendezvoused with a North Korean vessel in international waters in the East China Sea and picked up 300 kilograms of stimulants. The Japanese smugglers were caught with drugs off Kochi prefecture. The same year, police in Japan retrieved 200 kilograms of methamphetamines floating in the ocean that were intended be picked up later by Japanese smugglers. Chemical analysis linked the drugs to North Korea.

A major North Korean smuggling ring was discovered and disrupted in May 2006. Four Japanese were found guilty of smuggling amphetamines into Japan from North Korea---including a 68-year-old gangster connected to the Matsuba-kai yakuza gang---were given prison sentences of between 11 and 20 years.

The price of stimulant drugs skyrocketed after the smuggling operation from North Korea was shut down. After that the quality of the drugs dropped markedly and large amounts of high-quality drugs began coming in from China. In the early 2000s the price of a kilogram of high-quality meth was around ¥6 million or ¥7 million. By 2007 it was around ¥15 million.

North Korean Mystery Ships in Japanese Waters

In December 2001, a suspicious ship in waters about 150 miles southwest of Kyushu, was brought to the attention of the Japanese coast guard by American intelligence and caught after a 16 hour chase. After the Japanese fired warning shots, the cornered vessel launched rockets and fired about 100 rounds at the Japanese ships, injuring two coast guard members. The Japanese ships shot back with 20mm machine guns. Shortly afterward the mystery vessel sunk and all 10 people aboard were killed.

The ship was determined to be a North Korean vessel based on a life jacket and candy, produced in North Korea, found in the water where the boat sunk. The vessel was thought to be either on a spy mission or delivering drugs and is believed to have sunk, not from Japanese machine gun fire, but from an explosion set by the crew of the mysterious ship. It is believed that suspicious ship was working with a larger mother vessel and another ship and was unable to escape from the Japanese coast guard because it had engine trouble.

The mystery ship sank in waters in China’s exclusive economic zone. In September 2002, after permission was given by the Chinese, the 30-meter-long, 100 ton ship was raised from the 90 meter deep water in which it sunk. It was taken to Japan where investigators carefully examined it. An investigation and found weapons and cigarettes from North Korea, further evidence that the ship was indeed North Korean. A lot of questions about the ship remain, namely what its mission was.

Among the interesting things that investigators found on the mystery ship were precut paint sponges, which could used to quickly change the vessels name and identifying marks; giant Russian-made engines that gave the ship 10 times the horsepower of an ordinary fishing vessel; a secret compartment for a sleek, small vessel that could reach speeds of 55mph; explosive charges that could sink the ship in seconds; concealed 14.5-millimeters guns that could quickly be moved into place; and a host of other weapons, including rocket grenade launcher, anti-aircraft missiles and machine guns..

Among the other items found were Pierre Cardin watches, Japanese-made radar and global positioning devices and cell phones that had been used to make calls to the yakuza. After investigators where through with it the ship was displayed in Tokyo, where it drew more 1 million visitors in a single summer. .

In March 1999, two suspicious ships were found in Japanese waters off of northwest Honshu. They managed to outrun the Japanese coast guard and eventually made their way to a North Korean port. These ships moved at 65 kph compared to 28 kph for the sunken vessel.

Warning shots were fired in the direction of the vessels and a navy destroyer was dispatched. It was the first time in the postwar era that a destroyer were dispatched to chase a suspicious vessel.

See Drugs, Under Living

Image Sources: rachi.go,jp site ofr Japanese abducted by North Korea

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2013

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